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On Republic Day, air quality data missing from most Delhi stations

Data showed that Delhi’s air quality was ‘poor’ on January 26 during the Republic Day parade, as guests squinted to catch a glimpse of the flypast on a foggy morning.

environment Updated: Jan 26, 2018 19:45 IST
Malavika Vyawahare
Malavika Vyawahare
Hindustan Times, new Delhi
air quality,Delhi air quality,Republic Day
The 69th Republic Day parade at Rajpath in New Delhi took place on a foggy morning.(PTI)

Out of 20 real time monitoring stations in Delhi, between 6am and noon only 5 reported PM 2.5 levels, which is the primary pollutant in Delhi and only one station reported PM 10 data, according to the Central Pollution Control Board website.

The limited data showed that Delhi’s air quality was ‘poor’ on January 26 morning when the Republic Day parade was held, even as guests squinted to catch a glimpse of the flypast on a foggy morning.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that data is wealth at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday. However, paucity of timely and adequate data has been one of the biggest hurdles to tackling air pollution in the capital and across the country.

CPCB, which is the apex pollution regulator, collates data from its stations and also stations run by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) and the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology.

“We saw that there was data missing yesterday, we believe the data from the DPCC and IITM stations is not coming in,” D Saha at the air quality lab at CPCB said, adding that they had informed the other two agencies of the problem.

Real-time monitoring stations that continuously generate data are considered better than manual systems because analysing this data is time consuming. There is no human intervention in real-time monitoring.

However, these systems are more difficult and expensive to maintain and run. “There could be problems with the machinery, the connectivity or data capture,” Saha said.

Gufran Beig, programme director of IITM’s SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research), said there was no problem with any of their 8 real-time air quality monitoring stations in Delhi. “There might be a problem in communicating the data to the CPCB,” he said.

When the King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium visited Delhi in November, photographs of them inspecting the guard of honour through a curtain of dense smog, hit headlines.

There was anxiety among senior officials in the government that poor air quality could mar Republic Day celebrations where heads of states from 10 ASEAN countries were in attendance.

In recent weeks, hosting high profile international events in the capital has been fraught. FIFA Under-19 games were planned outside the capital when Diwali pollution hit, while recent matches of the India- Sri Lanka series were marred by incidents of play being suspended as Sri Lankan players struggles to cope with the high levels of pollution.

With the episodes of severe pollution gripping Delhi every year, multiple agencies have issued plans to tackle the problem and expanding real-time monitoring has been an important part of each one of these.

Officials at the DPCC did not respond to requests for a comment.

First Published: Jan 26, 2018 19:45 IST